Disaster overtook him that year. Crops failed, prices failed, the new landlord lived in town and didn't care about John Smith. He sold him out, took his mules, his corn, his all. John Smith was back where he started, with four chil dren, two beds, a few other pieces of furniture and two dogs. He went back on a third-crop basis, and began again the hard, hopeless task of getting himself on a paying basis. History repeated its grim cycle, more work, more children, more debt, more moving from place to place.
And now the John Smith today. Of the world's goods he has: three mules, two pigs, 11 chickens, a wagon, four plows, harness, an old buggy, a few squalid pieces of furniture, a wife, seven children, two cur dogs, and is in debt $1,400. This year he has spent at the store $250. He will make 12 bales of cotton, half of which he will get, and turn over to the man to whom he owes the money—the storekeeper, etc.
Three prosperous years are immediately behind him, in the common estimate of the conditions of the farmer. He has not moved in that time. He was $600 in debt three years ago. Half his new indebtedness is chargeable to an epidemic of typhoid fever that struck down six members of the family at one time in 1919. The entire working force of the family incapacitated for a summer. The winter before that all of them had had the influenza.
John Smith made one desperate effort to pull out winter before last. He succumbed to the popular frenzy of violation of the Volstead Act. He became associated with one of his neighbors in the manufacture of liquor. It promised divi dends, liquor was selling for $12 a gallon, a bushel of corn would make several gallons. Profits would be large, the work easy, the risk nominal, and the initial investment small. His boys helped, and the partner attended the business of mar keting.
Again disaster befell them. Raiders got the rude, home made plant one day, and destroyed the collected raw material. John Smith retired from the liquor business. He had failed at that, as at everything else to which he had put his hand. It was the only time that he had ever broken the law. He escaped uncaught, to be sure, but the loss but added to the already mountain-high debt. He drank a little of his product, but not much. He has always been a sober, industrious tenant.
A brief analysis of the record of John Smith, Tenant Farmer, follows: He has in 28 years, with the help of his family of seven children, produced 336 bales of cotton that brought $16,600.
He received for his share of that amount $7,900.
He has received an average yearly compensation of $282.15. Out of this he has lived, clothed his family, bought six mules and partly paid for them.
He has spent on an average of $328.56 annually over a period of 28 years.
He is now in debt $1,400, and when his mules were taken from him ten years ago, his creditor lost $600.
His present liabilities are $1,400, and his assets are $700.
The expenditure of $328.56 includes such permanent im provements as the purchase of mules, wagons, furniture, etc. It also includes money paid for food, clothing, doctors and medicine, etc.
Added to these, of course, must be some small allowance for vegetable gardens, corn and potatoes, and an occasional hog and chicken that has been raised on the place. Such things are generally discouraged by landlords, since they are not directly productive of returns to him. Ordinarily the tenant lives out of a store for ten months in the year. He pays in the fall.
There are seven children living and three have died. They all work in the field and none of them have ever been to school a day. Although underweight and undernourished they appear intelligent and reasonably healthy.
A case from the Texas cotton area shows large acreage planted, greater production, a smaller amount of the family living secured from the farm, and equal difficulty in buying land: L. T. Steward,' a tenant farmer of Savoy, Texas, described before the Federal Commission of Inquiry into Industrial Relations, at Dallas, Texas, his efforts for twenty years to buy a farm. He began in Faulkner County, Arkansas, and finally came to Texas. After his first year's farming he sold his mule to "get square of debt." Next year he borrowed a mule and "came out $15 to the good." Then he bought a small farm on six years' time, but was forced to give it up for lack of $40 to meet payments at the end of the first year. After several years he got $200 ahead and bought an 85 acre farm in Arkansas. He did well but two children died and their doctor's bill cut into his savings so that he gave up the farm unable to meet the interest. He did not live more than two years on the same farm after he married. Some of the years he worked land controlled by relatives.